“It’s a nutshell pram.”
Our oldest was still in the womb when I first heard my husband utter that phrase. We were at a wooden boat show because Michael was in the thick of restoring a 1962 Windjammer sailboat that had been badly damaged in a hurricane. In just two months we’d face the life-changing onset of parenthood, and I honestly wasn’t remotely interested in entertaining any of his wild daydreams about a nutshell pram – whatever kind of boat that was.
“Oh, isn’t it cute?” he exclaimed, pointing out the tiny boat’s beautiful woodwork and oars. “Someday, I’m going to build one of those,” he added dreamily. Cute? Sure. An alluring daydream for a lady who is seven months pregnant and who has been laboriously walking around all day looking at non-descript boat parts? Not really.
Six years and two children later, the nutshell pram daydream reappeared in family vacation conversation while visiting a folk school on the north shore of Lake Superior.
“Oh, girls! Wouldn’t it be fun to build one of these?” Michael implored, not even looking at our young daughters as he spoke. His eyes were wholly fixed upon a shiny little 8-foot wooden boat. At ages 3 and 6, the girls never even realized he was talking to them. Their little hearts were set on finding rocks on the shores of Lake Superior and a sweet treat at the next stop.
A few years later I found my husband at the computer, feeding his nutshell pram daydream with Google images and researching websites that sold kits to build one.
“This would be a great homeschool project for me to do with the kids,” he quipped, still trying to enthrall me with the beauty of his daydream.
“And how much does it cost?” I asked, trying to pull his head down from the clouds and tally up how many school books I could buy with the same budget.
“Two thousand dollars plus shipping,” he said.
“Wow. That’s a lot of chapter books,” I thought to myself as I shook my head doubtfully.
“We’d just have to save up for it,” Michael said, still daydreaming. He and I both knew that saving up for a boat kit, even as a school project, wasn’t a high priority in our one-income budget, especially when every spare dollar was already committed to the church’s capital campaign.
But God is sovereign, and all that is in the heavens and in the earth is His. Three months later, my father-in-law called us. His neighbor’s garage had flooded and, as part of the clean-up process, much was being thrown away. Into the dumpster the neighbor had discarded a partially assembled boat hull and pieces of a kit for building a 9-foot nutshell pram.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” –Psalm 37:4
God was indeed giving Michael one of his heart’s desires.
The wooden hull had some water damage, but my father-in-law thought it and the rest of kit were worth redeeming for us. So into the dumpster Papa Larry climbed on a hot Arkansas summer day, pulling out the hull, blueprints, bronze hardware, rope, wood for the mast and spars, and a VHS instructional tape. Later we learned that the neighbor had started the project with his father, who had recently passed away. That loss paired with the flood damage made him abandon any hope of finishing the boat.
Hearing the story and imagining the worst, I really wondered what our daughters, then ages 6 and 9, would think of their grandpa’s dumpster discovery. But at the dinner table that night when my elated husband relayed the news, the two girls excitedly adopted the project and confidently declared they would paint the little boat red and name it “Ruby.”
When summer arrived, we took a 1,500 mile road trip to haul Ruby’s hull and the rest of the kit home to Minnesota. At first glance, the overturned hull wasn’t much to see, and the girls’ excitement seemed to wane a bit until the strongback was removed and they could imagine the little boat it might become.
Soon curls of wood shavings, piles of sawdust and woodworking tools littered the garage as Michael and his little crew set to work reassembling the damaged hull and building seats. More than once the girls decorated their daddy’s tool box with curly wood shavings.
During the winter, they sewed canvas together to make Ruby’s sail.
The next summer, the girls were 7 and 10, and they continued to help their daddy with the woodwork and staining, rounding the mast, painting the hull red and attaching the bronze hardware.
In early August, great-grandma came and helped the girls sew a red streamer flag for the top of the mast.
By late August, Ruby was nearly ready to sail, and Papa Larry flew up with my brother-in-law Lance and our nephew to help us launch her into the lake.
And the dream of seeing Ruby sail across the water became a reality.
To Michael’s many years of daydreaming, he and our two daughters added a lot of hard work. They learned about team work and compromise, tools and boat parts, woodworking techniques, sewing, physics and sailing. Some parts of the project were indeed dull and tiresome, but the girls caught on to their daddy’s passion and shared his dream of someday sailing that little red boat across the lake. That dream motivated them to keep at it, and in the end, their perseverance helped build more than a boat and more than many summers of father-daughter memories. It built character.
Above all, what I pray my daughters will cherish most about Ruby is her story of redemption. Because of a father’s sacrificial love for his son and his granddaughters, Ruby was redeemed from the pit. Redeemed from a dumpster! And because of a father’s love for his daughters and his passions for woodworking and sailing, Ruby was given a second chance to fulfill her purpose.
“Bless the Lord… who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” –Psalm 103:2-4
Like a gem, Ruby is precious because she reminds us that we once sat helpless in pit of sin. She reminds us that we have value, and we have a Redeemer whose steadfast love ran red for us on the cross. Indeed, we have a heavenly Father who loves us, treasures us, delights in us, and is faithful to complete the good work He began in us.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” –Psalm 107:1-2